Getting ready for the grandparents
My daughter is about to find out that her grandparents don’t live encased in a 6X4 inch leather picture frame next to the television. In just a few short weeks my mother and father will be coming over from England to visit us in Beijing for the first time.
For a couple of months now I have been schooling Elsa to be word-perfect for their arrival. She has mastered “Nana” but my father’s title is proving more of a problem. When Elsa was born, my father indicated that he wished to be known as EGP, short for “Elderly Grandpapa” (I blame this on too much Dickens). We’ve almost conquered the first letter of this tricky moniker, but the latter two are proving a challenge. After “E” comes, “Eeee!,” which then morphs into, “Aiyeeeeeeeeeeeeee!,” and all is lost.
At least I have been partially successful in terms of linguistics; on the behavioral front I am failing miserably. Some years ago a friends’ husband sent me out of the room for giggling when their toddler flung some mashed potatoes on the floor (“It’s not a laughing matter,” he reprimanded me sternly). At the time I thought parenthood had caused him to lose all sense of humor. Now, when I rankle because Elsa’s using her food bowl as a Frisbee, it’s apparent to me that my own sense of humor has suffered similarly.
Never mind, I tell myself firmly. If Elsa won’t act the part of angelic grandchild, at least she can look it. I have scoured Yaxiu for the most grandparent-pleasing frilly dresses, and have scored my little troublemaker some new red shoes and all manner of girly hair accessories. Unfortunately, though, Elsa is somewhat follicle-ly challenged, and her poor scalp is beginning to take on a corrugated appearance as all attempts to secure these sparkly purchases meet with failure. I guess it’s called a hair-grip for a reason.
It’s not just Elsa whose image is getting an overhaul. My haircut appointment has been booked, my shoes re-heeled, and my wardrobe purged of the most revolting of its post-pregnancy items. I have been frantically speed-reading The Bookworm’s entire stock of China books so that I stand a chance of sounding vaguely intelligent if asked anything about politics or the economy. And I’m stocking up on kitchenware; I’ve been surviving too long on two mugs I got free with some gluhwein at the German Christmas Bazaar, three forks and a rather nice teaspoon from the China World Hotel (which inadvertently made its way into my bag during an all-you-can-eat buffet).
Sadly, as fast as these overdue improvements are put in place, my delightful charge undoes them. Lately, the apartment has become a veritable Bermuda Triangle, with keys, then dishes, then diapers all disappearing at a mysteriously rapid rate. Most recently, I have been baffled as to the whereabouts of Elsa’s milk bottles. Only when I accidentally came across a shoe in the kitchen garbage did I belatedly understand their fate.
As long as she steers clear of my new wine glasses, I’m not entirely opposed to Elsa’s new “clean-up” technique. At least it means less clutter for the big move next week. Yes, Elsa and I are moving on to new – and bigger – accommodations. The timing is perfect for The Visitation, as I will now have a room to put my parents in. The bathroom at the new place is a bit shabby and the paintwork has seen better days, but I’m confident that a new shower curtain, a lick of Dulux’s finest and some strategically placed foliage will work wonders. (Speaking of home repairs, why does B&Q stock more toilet brushes than you can shake a stick at but no toilet brush holders? Is the brush supposed to proudly hang somewhere, exposed in all its postoperative glory?)
This unsolved mystery aside, I’ve found the frenzied run up to my parents’ arrival surprisingly satisfying. Best of all, my many preparations will come in handy next month, when my sister makes her way down from her frame on the fridge.